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Taking the bull by the horns

28 February, 2017

Three concerts in three days in three different cities has made for a busy start to our tour, but we’re now based in Indianapolis for a few days. Here’s Helen to bring you up to date!

“The early morning starts, courtesy of the dreaded jet lag, continued for many on Saturday, so once more a few of us could be found pounding the streets of Boston in a bid to earn an extra cookie or two later in the day. I had rather ambitiously gone for hand luggage only on this trip and so I hadn’t had space for my trainers. Sadly this didn’t get me off the exercising hook though, because the hotel we were staying in had a nifty scheme where you could pay for freshly laundered gym kit and trainers to be delivered to your door for the duration of your stay for only five dollars! It was a fabulous morning for some fresh air, and it was great to be able to revel in a proper warm spring day, especially as there were still enormous piles of snow from last week piled up on the side of the road!

“We then set off to the nearby Back Bay station for the well-known train journey down to New York. It’s a lovely route along the coast of Connecticut and there’s plenty of opportunity to ogle some rather fabulous houses and boats too.

“Having arrived in New York, we were thrown into the usual chaotic frenzy with even more force than normal, as the subway line we were intending to take was down for maintenance. Information on a suitable alternative seemed hard to come by. It was a great relief to be able to get out on to the relatively calm streets of Upper West Side, where half of the group headed to a Stile favourite, Sarabeth’s, for a late brunch. Having gorged ourselves on various different takes on Eggs Benedict, Becky, Tom and I noticed a table in the sun in the café next door and spent a very pleasurable 45 minutes relaxing and catching up on some Vitamin D, alongside some people-watching of course.

“The concert was promoted by the Miller Theatre series and they were trying a new venue on this occasion. West 83rd is a former car park, converted into a Presbyterian church which looks rather more like a theatre. Whilst it didn’t have the generous acoustics and ambience of our usual venue St Mary the Virgin (affectionally known as Smokey Mary’s), it was great to be somewhere with ample toilet facilities and much more heating than we’re used to, and the audience was able to enjoy comfier seats and a much better view. The concert included two pieces that were written specially for us, one of which was new to two of the tenors, so we spent a fair amount of time doing some very detailed work on those. We were all glad to be able to head out for some food.

“Unfortunately the glorious sunshine had been transformed into a thunderstorm of biblical proportions accompanied by torrential rain. We all dived into the nearest place that looked dry: some to a vegan fast food joint, others to an Eritrean place, a pizza place or an artisanal bakery. You really can find anything you can imagine to eat in NYC! The whooping enthusiasm of the audience really helped us keep the energy up for the second concert. It was also a pleasure to be able to meet up with some old friends afterwards for a couple of drinks and a gossip, in a bar round the corner whose walls were covered in photos of dogs, which pleased dog-mad James!

“Sadly we couldn’t let our hair down too much as it was a 6:20am departure from the hotel the following morning. It was a bleary-eyed start to the day, but the pain of the early start was assuaged by a ride on a totally new plane down to Dallas with plenty of great film options to conk out in front of. It was almost a shame to deplane in Dallas, but we certainly weren’t disappointed once we arrived at the Church of the Incarnation! It was mostly built last year (although the sanctuary itself is older) and the whole complex must have covered many thousands of square feet. Everything really is bigger in Texas!

“The good people of the Church of the Incarnation showed us some classic Texan hospitality and it was great to meet so many entertaining and interesting characters at the reception afterwards.

“We arrived at our hotel at about 8pm, which was a little way out of town. Most of the group were flagging by this stage and chose the option of a quick drink in the hotel bar followed by an early night, but James, Ross and I decided to go in search of a Texan adventure, having been recommended some nice bars in Uptown. We found out from our Uber driver that it wasn’t Rodeo season, so we decided to go for the next best thing and headed to a place with a mechanical bull. The very large disclaimer notice absolving the bar from any responsibility for serious injury or death made us think twice, but having signed our life away we took it in turns to jump on. We needn’t have worried, as the most serious injury likely to result from a buck on this bronco was a bit of dented pride, and we managed about a minute each before being flung onto the inflatable floor below.

After enjoying the chance to sit outside in shirt sleeves at 11pm, we headed back for some much needed sleep. It was hard to believe that only the previous morning we had been running through the park in Boston, and we’re all looking forward to a bit of R and R time in Indianapolis for a few days.”